British Airways Hyderabad

They called to assign Hyderabad. The layout in digital magazines is so beautiful now. Check out my story here.

I have pasted content below but not the photos

WORK TODAY, FLY TOMORROW • JULY 2014

HYDERABAD: EIGHT REASONS TO STAY
This city has been a centre of prosperity and innovation for centuries, but nowadays is better known for being one of India’s key IT and software hubs, earning it the nickname ‘Cyberabad’. But there’s more to Hyderabad than just business, says Shoba Narayan. Stay on and discover its fiery cuisine, intricate artwork and pearls

Get crafty

The city is home to intricate weaving styles popularised by the Mughals. Visit the homes of artisans who still use traditional Himroo and Mashroo techniques to spin soft muslin weaves, on a tour with Detours India. You can also pick up beautiful kalamkari paintings, popular with hip Indians.

A history lesson

Stroll around the manicured grounds of the University College of Women in Koti. It was once the mansion of James Achilles Kirkpatrick, the British Resident whose relationship with Khair-un-Nissa (teenage granddaughter of the then prime minister) was portrayed in William Dalrymple’s book, White Mughals – worth a read before visiting.

Time for tea

Sip Irani chai (a blend of brewed tea leaves, boiled milk and sweetened condensed milk) with Osmania tea biscuits at Farasha Café and Bakery, which sits in the shadow of the Charminar monument in the Old City. You can hear the call of the muezzin from the mosque nearby.

Get out of town

Take a trip to the historical forts in Bidar, a three-hour drive from the city. Tucked away in neighbouring Karnataka state’s northeastern corner and far off the tourist track, it’s home to the exquisite black Bidri metalware. There are also impressive ruins and monuments from the Bahmani era and the colossal Bidar Fort – the largest in South India.

Spice world

Try a spicy Andhra thali (a plate of local vegetarian dishes, such as daal, vegetable curries, mango pickle and curd rice) at the original Southern Spice restaurant in the Banjara Hills neighbourhood. Don’t miss trying Hyderabadi haleem – an Arabic-influenced stew of meat, lentils and pounded wheat – at cafés such as Niagara.

Pearl jam

Hyderabad processes many of the world’s pearls, so you get them at wallet-friendly prices. Mangatrai Jewellers is known for its high-quality pearls, and the best outlet is the flagship store opposite the Liberty Bus Stand.

Up on the roof

The Park Hyderabad, which overlooks Hussain Sagar Lake, is the place to enjoy a sundowner with a view. Make a night of it by heading down to its Kismet nightclub to rub shoulders with Telugu movie stars, socialites and the city’s glitterati.

Museum time

Summer can be humid, so take a break from the heat at the Salar Jung Museum, which houses a jumbled collection of global artefacts from Italian sculptures to Arabian books. For something quirkier, try the museum of local ‘crazy car designer’ Sudhakar Yadav, where you’ll find wacky automobiles in various shapes.

British Airways flies to Hyderabad six times a week, including a service on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Use the Avios calculator to see how many Avios you need to get there

Bangkok Tuk-tuks

My Dad talks about this incident to this day.

Tuk-tuk tricks and Bangkok bartering
Shoba Narayan

May 29, 2014 Updated: May 29, 2014 11:47:00

It begins innocently enough. We’re in Bangkok and my 12-year-old wants to ride on a tuk-tuk. After days of visiting Buddhist temples, she wants something more adventurous. My 80-year-old father, who’s travelling with us, is having none of it.

“Tuk-tuks are dangerous,” he says. “Why take chances in a new country? And that too, on the day of our flight?”

I’m caught between two generations. My instinct is to dismiss my father’s warnings, as I usually do. He’s the worrying kind and goes into overdrive in a new country. What could go wrong with a simple ride in a tuk-tuk?

We hire one right outside our hotel and tell the tuk-tuk driver to show us the sights. The hotel concierge asks the driver to drop us back at the hotel in half an hour. We all get in: my parents, my two daughters and I.

The tuk-tuk takes us deeper and deeper into the narrow by-lanes that surround the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok, where we’re staying. Soon, we’re in a neighbourhood with a dirty canal on one side and automobile-spare-part shops on the other. Touristy, it’s not.

I ask, then order and, finally, entreat our driver to turn back. He acts as if he can’t hear. As we bounce along into the impending darkness, I glance at my father, who has an “I told you so” expression on his worried face.

Finally, the driver pulls into what is obviously a tourist trap. A seedy shop sells Buddha statues, Thai silk jackets, imitation pearls and knick-knacks. The owner stands outside, ostensibly welcoming us. “Please tell your friend to take us back to your hotel?” I say, without preamble.

“Only if you buy something from us, madam,” says the owner. “Otherwise, he no take you back.”

The shop sells poor-quality, overpriced souvenirs. I have exactly four Thai bahts in my purse; and I don’t want to use my credit card at such an obviously seedy place.

My father tries to explain to the owner that we have a plane to catch in a few hours. The tuk-tuk driver pulls into a narrow lane about 100 yards away and parks there, puffing a cigarette. I stand outside the shop, and try to find another taxi or tuk-tuk to take us back, but nothing is in sight.

It was my teenage daughter, Ranju, who comes up with the solution – which had been staring at us in the face. She takes the pink Disney pouch that my 12-year-old, Malu, is wearing around her neck and offers it to the shopkeeper. “For your daughter,” she says with a winsome smile.

The shopkeeper examines the pouch and nods. “What you want in exchange?”

I was just about to say “a ride back to the hotel”, when Ranju interrupts me. She points at an orange scarf in what appears to be Thai silk. The shopkeeper laughs. “Too expensive.” He offers a tiny, embroidered pouch, which my daughter takes with a smile. “Tuk-tuk?” she asks.

The man nods and hails his friend. We ride back to the hotel in fearful silence.

My teenager uses the pouch to carry coins. It’s a testament, she says, to the power of negotiation. I say that it’s a testament to the fact that you should listen to your parents. My father merely says: “I told you so.”

FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid

Copa Del Ray
It’s the eve of the Indian election results and all my friends are doing a variety of things to keep themselves distracted from this nailbiting finish. I decided to sort through my photo library and discovered some photos of a recent trip to Barcelona– that offered a different version of a nail-biting finish.

The highlight of the trip was Copa Del Ray or the King’s Cup finals at Valencia between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. It was the best sporting event that I have ever witnessed. I have watched football and basketball games at Madison Square Garden; watch tennis at the various Opens; cricket in South Africa and India; and the odd Kabaddi match in my neighborhood. Nothing, but nothing compared to this. Nothing came close. The energy in the stadium, the passionate fans, the charismatic players who ran up to the stands and ordered us to clap some more. By the end of the evening, we knew all the chants. In Spanish. Here are the photos of that amazing night.

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Carme Ruscellada

I was thrilled to meet this chef. She is casual and confident but underneath you can sense her resolve. It appeared in Quartz here.

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Carme Ruscellada i Serra looks like the seven-star Michelin chef that she is. I met her recently at her restaurant in Barcelona, Moments, to discuss Catalan cuisine, the Mediterranean diet, and why there are so few women chefs as successful as she.
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Like many of them, she downplays the role of gender in the high-temperature, high-testosterone world of restaurant kitchens. Running a 70-staff kitchen, according to Ruscellada, is not about screaming and swearing. It has to do with body language, posture and tone of voice. “My staff can look at my eyes and tell if I am angry about something they have done,” says Ruscellada, a celebrated chef in Catalunya, the corner of Spain that has now become the mecca for culinary travelers. Numerous Catalan chefs, beginning with Ferran Adria have taken center stage. Only two are women: Ruscellada and Elena Arzak.
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Carme Ruscellada i Serra Photo/Shoba Narayan

Every now and again, and particularly during awards season, the topic of women chefs comes up. The 50 best restaurants in the world were unveiled yesterday in London. This year, Helena Rizzo, chef and co-owner of Mani restaurant in Sao Paolo takes home the award for top female chef in the world: the only one with a gender tag. The other eight categories include “highest climber,” and “one to watch,” most of which allude to restaurants. There is no “best male chef” award. Instead, the chef of the top restaurant is deemed the top chef in the world. The top female chef category could be viewed as patronizing. The problem—for female chefs—is that there are so few contenders.
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In the US, for example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up a majority of the labor force in the food business but just a handful occupy its upper echelons. There are fewer women chefs than there are investment bankers, and CEOs. This is particularly galling when celebrity chefs list women—their mothers, aunts grandmothers—as inspiration. Women who cook, it seems, serve as muses and mentors. But not colleagues.
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Recently, Time magazine created a furor by putting three male chefs on the cover, prompting renewed accusations and handwringing about the state of women in the world’s kitchens. The reality is that putting a woman chef on Time’s cover would have been tokenism, given the small proportion of top jobs that they occupy. According to Bloomberg News, women occupy just 10 of the top 160 jobs in American restaurants. On the other hand, not acknowledging the slowly rising numbers of female chefs is part of the vicious cycle that causes rising female stars to drop out. I ask Ruscellada why she didn’t. “Because of my husband,” she says. Whenever there was the urge to opt out of the hard life of running a restaurant, she says through an interpreter, her husband would intervene and push her to continue.
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We get talking about female chefs and she grows more animated, switching to rapid Spanish from halting English. “Today, with the ease of kitchen equipment, a woman doesn’t need the superior strength or any special skills to work in a restaurant kitchen,” she says. “What you need is a good husband who will stand by you in this tough profession.”

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Ruscellada doesn’t seem to have heard of Sheryl Sandberg and when I mention the concept of “leaning in,” she nods politely. “The call and the pleasure of a family is hard to ignore for a woman chef,” she continues. “I too was very happy to withdraw and do some small cooking, but Toni, my husband, put my photo in front of our restaurant and said that I had to go for it.” Today, the entrance of the Mandarin Oriental has a fairly large photo of Ruscellada in chef’s whites, beaming at the hotel’s patrons and passersby on the street.
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Women can find it hard to compete and survive in the “ball-busting” atmosphere of a restaurant kitchen. Others describe the difficulties of achieving work-life balance in a profession that demands being away from children on most evenings. But very few chefs, if any—male or female—point to the choice of spouse as the main reason why women aren’t heading kitchens. Husbands matter when you want to become a female chef—perhaps more so than if you want to join Wall Street or head to Silicon Valley, something that the Bureau of Labor Statistics substantiates in its publications on women workers.
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What’s the way forward? How do you help female chefs deal with the brutal working hours of a restaurant kitchen? Chefs come in at noon and often leave at 1 a.m. on most nights, including weekends. Male chefs rely on wives to take care of their families. Ruscellada’s path was different. A farmer’s daughter, she married young and began her first restaurant with her husband, somewhat like the current number one female chef, Helena Rizzo, is doing with her Spanish husband.

Carme Ruscellada

Ruscellada’s husband, Toni Balam, manages the front of her three-starred restaurant, Sant Pau, just outside Barcelona. Her son, Raul Balam is the chef at Moments (two stars). They have an outpost in Tokyo. While Ruscellada’s photo adorns the entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, it is her husband who is the power behind the chef’s hat.

Ruscellada hasn’t won an award yet, but the number one chef in the world, Joan Roca i Fontané, feels that it is time she did. Perhaps soon, her restaurant will also become one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. It is about time.
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Follow Shoba on Twitter @ShobaNarayan. We welcome your comments at deas@qz.com.

Chennai for British Airways magazine

They have nice photos!!

WORK TODAY, FLY TOMORROW • FEBRUARY 2014

NINE REASONS TO HANG OUT IN CHENNAI
This ancient city on India’s Coromandel Coast is dubbed the Detroit of Asia, thanks to its thriving car manufacturing scene. But, says resident Shoba Narayan, Chennai is also the cultural capital of South India, and it would be a shame not to stay on an extra day or two to experience its beaches, traditional arts and street food

Just dance

Established by 1920s classical dance star Rukmini Devi Arundale, Kalakshetra is one of the oldest Bharatanatyam (a traditional Indian dance form) schools in the country. Walk through its expansive verdant grounds and watch groups of sari-clad students rehearse under a banyan tree, or visit the museum, library and weaving unit to learn more about the region’s rich performing arts history.

The coast with the most

The Coromandel Coast has two beaches: popular Marina Beach is older, while Elliott’s Beach – named after Edward Elliot, governor of Madras 1803-1820 – is more of an up-and-comer. Take a jog or walk in the morning and you’ll see yoga practitioners, Frisbee players and even the odd politician walking by with his retinue.

Caffeine fix

Chennai prides itself on the quality of its coffee. Traditional households roast and grind their beans fresh every morning, and the thick coffee decoction is mixed with frothy milk and just enough sugar to take the bitterness away. For that traditional taste, try the outdoor Namma Café at Isha Life in Mylapore, surrounded by jackfruit and mango trees.

Street eats

Trying the popular snack dosa, a crisp, golden savoury crêpe, is a must. Masala dosa has a potato filling and is popular with hungry students. Most of the city’s luxury hotels will serve dosa, while humble eateries like Karpagambal Mess Bhavan serve it for under $1.

Silk route

Find hand-woven silk and cotton scarfs, shawls and saris in jewel tones at Nalli, Kumaran or Sundari Silks, all stalwarts of the silk business for decades. For newer designs, try Palam Silks to duplicate the trendy but traditional look that Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone sported in the recent hit film, Chennai Express.

Regal accommodation

Chennai’s newest grand hotel, the 600-room ITC Grand Chola is inspired by the architecture of one of Southern India’s greatest empires, the Imperial Chola dynasty, with granite carvings and towering columns throughout. With the environment in mind, it’s also the world’s largest LEED Platinum-rated Green hotel.

Going for gold

The World Gold Council’s India arm is headquartered in Chennai, so this is the place to invest. Go to GR Thanga Maligai (which means ‘gold mansion’) to pick up and buy a 24-carat gold ring, earring or necklace. Prices are fixed, so bargaining isn’t necessary – but make sure you get a certificate of authenticity.

Be a Carnatic fanatic

Chennai is the seat of Carnatic music (South Indian music, considered one of the oldest in the world) and there are dance and music concerts all year in the city’s sabhas or concert halls. Buy a ticket to attend a concert at the legendary Madras Music Academy, where the famous month-long Music and Dance Festival takes place every December.

Bronze age

The Chola bronzes (famous figures representing Hindu gods, goddesses and devotees dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries) alone are worth a trip to the Government Museum. Go in the afternoon, when the air-conditioned confines offer a welcome respite from the tropical sun.

Be there

To celebrate its 25th year of flying to Chennai, BA has increased its services from London Heathrow to Chennai from five to six times a week. Find our lowest fares at ba.com

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Trivandrum– Thiruvananthapuram

In The National, Abu Dhabi

Thiruvananthapuram is India’s evergreen destination
Shoba Narayan
December 5, 2013 Updated: December 5, 2013 16:52:00

With its lush green foliage, balmy weather and quiet streets, Thiruvananthapuram, previously called Trivandrum, provides a genteel and serene counterpoint to the frenetic chaos of India. The temple was recently in the news when chambers containing US$15 billion (Dh55bn) worth of jewels, gold and other religious objects were discovered.

An ancient coastal city with a history going back to 1000 BC, this capital of Kerala state attracted traders and kings through the ages, including King Solomon, who is believed to have landed here, attracted by the spices, sandalwood, pepper and ivory. The city is a gateway to the tourists who make their way up to Kerala’s famous beach resorts just up the coast.

A comfortable bed

With 137 spacious, modern rooms, and an outdoor pool and health club, the Vivanta by Taj (www.vivantabytaj.com; 0091 471 661 2345) offers a quiet respite in the heart of the city, and occasional sightings of white-clad Kerala brides and grooms who hold their weddings in the hotel. Each Vivanta hotel offers “motifs” or experiences that typify the city. In Thiruvananthapuram, the “essence of Travancore” includes museums and palaces that belong to the erstwhile royal family. Double rooms from US$150 (Dh550) including taxes and breakfast.

Varikett Heritage (www.varikattheritage.com; 0091 471 233 6057) is a charming homestay with a small ayurvedic spa, badminton court and indoor board games for when the monsoon rains hit. Owned by the Colonel Roy Kuncheria, whose family bought this 1850s Colonial home from an English woman, this elegant space has typical red Kerala floors and dark rosewood furniture. Kuncheria and his wife can organise shopping trips, cooking classes and even kathakali dance performances. There are two suites and one room, so book early. Double rooms from about $100 (Dh367).

The great virtue of the Residency Tower (www.residencytower.com; 0091 471 233 1661) is its central location on Mahatma Gandhi Road (MG Road) in the centre of the city. Besides that, it has spacious if functional rooms with all the usual trappings – fitness centre, swimming pool, wireless internet access and babysitters on demand. Average room rate is $100 (Dh367) but last-minute specials can occasionally be booked online the previous day for as low as $50 (Dh184) including a buffet breakfast.

Find your feet

The best part of town is the upmarket Jawahar Nagar area, with its winding streets, quaint boutiques and large bungalows. Visit the museum, which houses fabulous examples of Raja Ravi Verma, the painter-prince whose iconic images from Indian mythology grace many a poster and calendar in India. Adjacent to the museum is the sprawling 55-acre zoo with leafy lanes, water bodies and lakes. Within the same complex is the Napier Museum, which contains the work of K C S Panicker, one of Kerala’s famous artists (www.keralamuseumandzoo.org).

Meet the locals

The Tagore Theatre hosts music and dance concerts from late September through January. The fort area is the older part of the city and is full of tiny shops selling jasmine garlands, brass vessels, prayer items, handloom saris and banana chips. If you have a tolerance for crowds, this is an area that offers a slice of life of yore. If you have local friends, the Trivandrum Club is a great place to spend the evening having drinks and eating fish cutlets.

Book a table

The Syrian beef, chicken roast, fish moily and prawns are all delicious at Villa Maya (www.villamaya.in/index.php), a renovated Dutch bungalow that serves Italian, Arab, Moroccan and Kerala cuisine in a spacious, tastefully decorated environment. A meal for two costs $20 (Dh73).

Ariya Niwas on Manorama Road serves tasty vegetarian thalis (or meal-on-a-plate) for about $2 (Dh7.34). Its Uthappam, dosa-crepes spiked with onions, green chillies and tomato are a speciality and cost about $1 (Dh3.67).

Locals go to Cherries & Berries (www.cherriesandberries.in) for pizza, milkshakes, sandwiches and pasta when they tire of their spicy home food.

Shopper’s paradise

The Fabindia store in Jawahar Nagar is housed in an old bungalow that reportedly belongs to the movie star Mohanlal. Its air-conditioned confines sell Indian clothes, scented candles and organic pickles. Thiruvananthapuram is known for its ayurvedic shops that sell oils, balms, soaps and shampoos. Tiny bookstores dot MG Road and sell the latest potboilers by Indian authors as well as classical Sanskrit texts on yoga and Ayurveda, translated into English. Pothys sells silk saris, salwar kameezes, stoles and fabric at reasonable prices.

Don’t miss

The temples of Kerala are clean and serene. Visit the Padmanabha Swamy Temple in the old fort area with its vast outer complex containing sculpted pillars and arches – this is the temple that gave the city its name (www.sreepadmanabhaswamytemple.org/cnr.htm).

What to avoid

Shankumugam Beach. The waves are treacherous and the touts are incorrigible. Far better to visit one of the resorts up or down the coast.

Go there

Etihad (www.etihad.ae) flies direct from Abu Dhabi to Thiruvananthapuram from Dh1,100 return including taxes. The flight takes four hours.

weekend@thenational.ae